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Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, August 12, 1931


Your letter came two days ago, dearest Mildred, and was a great comfort to me, however gloomy the landscape it depicted. But you give me no hint as to when I may hope to see you again. Do, please—at least give me a vague indication.

I’ll answer your questions first, and then give you some of my own brew.

Yes, I was delighted about the Byz. Showfrom start to finish; though exhausting, it was the most enjoyable thing I’ve ever had anything to do with, and what was so particularly satisfactory was the harmony that was never troubled between Metman and his assistants, Guérin and Alfassa, Duthuit and myself. Salles was also helpful, sporadically—and the rest did what they could by keeping clear of the ropes.

You wouldn’t have thought there was any electricity in the air, judging by the numbers of Germans who turned up and behaved as if they felt perfectly at home. They all came, or nearly all, except Falke,Otto von Falke (1862–1942), a German art historian who specialized in the decorative arts and who succeeded Wilhelm von Bode as general director of the Berlin State Museums in 1920. who is old and ailing. Delbrueck,Richard Delbrück (1875–1957), a German classical archaeologist with a specialty in the art of late antiquity. Goldschmidt,Adolph Goldschmidt (1863–1944), a medievalist art historian and teacher. In 1914, Goldschmidt had published the first of three inventories of medieval ivories in the western world (Die Elfenbeinskulpturen aus Zeit der karolingischen und sächischen Kaiser, VIII.–VI. Jahrhundert, 4 vols [Berlin: Bruno Cassirer, 1914–1926]), dealing with an art form whose objects were heretofore poorly documented. In 1927–1928, Goldschmidt was teaching on sabbatical at Harvard Univeresity; he would teach there again in 1930–1931. With his student Kurt Weitzmann, he published Die byzantinischen Elfenbeinskulpturen des X.–XIII. Jahrhunderts, 2 vols. (Berlin: Bruno Cassirer, 1930–1934. Volbach, Schmidt,Frederik Schmidt-Degener (1881–1941), a German art historian and director of the Boymans Museum, Rotterdam. Berliner,Rudolf Berliner (1886–1967), a German art historian who specialized in Early Christian, Byzantine, Islamic, and early Nordic art and textiles and was a curator at the Bavarian National Museum. Schülter,Schülter has not been identified. Burg,Hermann Burg (1878–1946), a German historian, collector, and dealer in Cologne until the early 1930s. With his wife Margaret (d. 1957), he authored a number of books and articles on Greek, Roman, and Egyptian minor arts. During the Nazi period, the Burgs moved to Holland, where they worked closely with the Leiden Museum, and they later settled in London in 1940, having fled Nazi-occupied Holland. Here, they continued to acquire antiquities for museums and private collectors. Margaret Burg traveled extensively in the Near East after her husband died in 1946 and continued adding to her own private collection until her death in 1957. Rank,Possibly Otto Rank (1884–1939), an Austrian psychoanalyst, writer, and teacher with a strong interest in art and symbolism. and it was extraordinarily interesting. My opinion of their judgment has not gone up—they know a lot, most of them, of one or two aspects of Byzantine art, but very few of them have any vision of the subject as a whole, or any critical opinion of work done in another field than theirs: and a sort of professional etiquette has grown up which demands of a coptic-textile expert, for instance, unquestioning acceptance of the ivory-carving experts’ opinion on any question where ivory comes in. It reminds one of the way Specialists in the medical field behave. One of the major curses of archaeology is professionalism—and though it’s not as bad in Germany as it is in America, there’s a grave lack in Germany of men who take a broad, human, scholarly view, Delbrueck is easily the biggest man in the field, in Germany or out of it, for scholarship, honesty, breadth of view, but even he is too narrowly confined to his own Fach.“Subject.”—and is also inclined to force conclusions out of insufficient evidence. Dear old Goldschmidt is the most loveable of them all, but he is old, old, and his eye, which I don’t think ever can have been first-rate, is now downright poor.

In a way, it was humiliating for French archaeology to have these Germans turning up, each one of whom, in his own field, knew far more than anyone whom France could produce. But when I had seen them all, I felt that it was a far more valuable contribution to have bred someone like Guérin, who doesn’t claim to know anything about Byzantine, but who at once enters into the closest intimacy with any object he is confronted with, and can tell without outside assistance the essential facts about it: is it a dud, or poor but authentic? is it retapé?“Reworked.” and above all, is it successful as a work of art? With such a divining rod as his, all is possible. With all the German’s scientific paraphernalia, they are constantly wrong about essentials—incapable even of appreciating the nature of the problem. That one of them who comes nearest to having a nose is Volbach. I’m sure he would soon develop an excellent one if he lived in Paris. Everyone liked him, and it was most encouraging to see how the Frenchmen took to him. He had his couvert“Place.” at all meals chez Duthuit,“At Duthuit’s house.” and was covered with invitations, and enjoyed himself prodigiously. He said:

‘Sehen Sie, zu Hause bekomme ich keine guten Zigaretten, den meine Frau gibt mir nur 1 Mark täglich, und wann ich meine Untergrundbahn billeten gezahlt habe nach dem Museum und weiter nach Hause, bleibt wenig übrig!’“You see, at home I can’t get good cigarettes, for my wife gives me only one Mark a day, and when I’ve paid my subway tickets to the museum and afterwards home, there’s little left!”

and laughed heartily about it all, puffing at one of Mme de Béhague’sProbably Martine Marie Pol, Comtesse de Béhague (1870–1939), who was a French socialite, collector, and legendary hostess. biggest cigars. Metman loved him.

I’ve had Robert’s dossier about the tapestry insurance,This is likely the letter of July 7, 1931, mentioned by Royall Tyler in his letter of August 17, 1931, to Robert Woods Bliss. See also letter of May 9, 1931. and will answer soon.See letter of August 17, 1931. Those wretches of the Boston insurer-shippers’ office tried it on to make us pay twice over: they’ve been driven out of that, but even so they charge at a rate about double the rates charged for shipping the Lautrecs from Chicago.The loan exhibition, Paintings, Drawings and Prints by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Art Institute of Chicago, December 18, 1930–January 12, 1931.

Vignier, I believe, is getting on very slowly—I can’t make out whether there’s any prospect of his being himself again or not. By the way, his big wall mosaic, the Virgin,In a letter from Charles Vignier to Mildred Barnes Bliss, November 14, 1929, he gave the mosaics measurements as 150 cm high and 71 cm wide (approximately 59 in. high and 28 in. wide). The price quoted for the mosaic was 850,000 French francs. Byzantine Collection, Vignier file. See also letter of December 14, 1929. about which there was excitement last year, was at the Show,Exposition internationale d’art byzantin, 28 mai–9 juillet 1931 (Paris: Musée des arts décoratifs, 1931), 170, no. 636. and looked like the dickens. And the onePresumably the reference is to one of the miniature mosaics that Royall Tyler borrowed for the Paris Byzantine exhibition of 1931. See Exposition internationale d’art byzantin, 28 mai–9 juillet 1931 (Paris: Musée des arts décoratifs, 1931),169, no. 635 or 170, no. 638. See also Catalogue of Medieval Works of Art . . . from the Collection of the late Adolphe Stoclet, London, Tuesday, April 27, 1965 (London: Sotheby, 1965), 23. he sold to Stoclet didn’t stand up anything like as well as I should have expected. I’m glad now you didn’t get it.

I’ll carefully note that you and Robert expose etc as Mr. and Mrs. R.W.B.

I had such a rush in Paris that I didn’t succeed in even getting to the DegasEdgar Degas (born Hilaire-Germain-Edgar De Gas) (1834–1917), a French artist. show,Degas, portraitiste, sculpteur, Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris, July 19–October 1, 1931. but I believe it will be on still when I return next month.

No, no more of R. Read and his stuffs.Rowland S. Read, a textile collector. The Blisses acquired a textile fragment (BZ.1934.6) in August 1934 from Rowland S. Read.

As to the DreyPaul Drey (1885–1953), a senior partner of the Paul Drey Gallery, New York, founded in 1920.-BurnsWalter Spencer Morgan Burns (1891–1929), British art collector and financier, was a nephew of J. Pierpont Morgan and a partner in his firm, J. P. Morgan & Co., as of December 31, 1897.-SebastianoffCount Pierre de Sébastianoff, a collector in Saint Petersburg, Russia, who was among the first to investigate and photograph the Byzantine art of the Mount Athos monasteries in Greece. cross, I understand your feelings and Robert’s. However, now that the whole line-up has subsided into place in my mind, I don’t think I’d advise you to get it. It is of lovely quality, but it is so tiny, and badly damaged—the breast of the Christ. Of course one doesn’t know whether anything will turn up again like it, but I expect something will. I’d rather have Stoclet’s little cross.Here, Royall Tyler contradicts his opinion given in his letter of April 23, 1931. The cross is probably the enameled reliquary cross from the Stoclet Collection now in the British Museum (M&ME 1965, 6-4, 1). The thing in the Show which I think would be the best buy, the thing I’d go for if I were able, is Kelekian’s Europa-Nereid tapestry. If you had that, already having the other one,BZ.1929.1. you’d have the entire art—and a superb one it is. I can’t tell you how glorious the colour of the Nereid one is.

I haven’t had any very recent news of Jeremiah Smith, but people who saw him a few weeks ago say his sight was then coming back, very slowly, but that the chances of complete recovery seemed faint. It is a heartbreaking affair.

I saw DanvilaAlfonso Danvila (1879–1945), a Spanish novelist and diplomat who served as his country’s ambassador to Argentina and France. once, and rather liked him. Edith liked him very much.

Yes, there is news of the 40 martyrs. Hayford has it.Hayford Peirce acquired the icon from Géza Dános (1886–1990), a Jewish Hungarian collector, in Paris in 1931, and his widow, Polly, gave it to the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection in memory of Hayford Peirce in October 1947. Just before I left Paris the jobber who had it in hand betrayed anxiety to sell it at once—he was returning to Greece—and after a few days of furious comedy Hayford got it for £880. I think it’s a good buy, though it’s badly damaged. The quality is the very most delicate. Until Hayford had actually bought it, I was unable to get a photo. of it showing anything like its quality, which is its great point, and even so all the pearly, oystery tones are lost. In a way I’m sorry you hadn’t a chance at it, but it’s the sort of object which even the best photo, doesn’t render, and the miserable one DanosGéza Dános (1886–1990), a Jewish Hungarian collector. gave me made it look disgusting, so I thought it hopeless.

Arthur Salter is in England, very well and fighting desperately hard to keep himself clear of entanglements, for the present. He feels that he has been so long involved in detailed work that he simply must withdraw from it for a few months. I expect he’ll be pulled back before long.

Bill is writing to you.

I don’t know Kuhn’s Romanesque Painting in Catalonia,Charles Louis Kuhn wrote his doctoral dissertation on the Romanesque mural painting of Catalonia in 1929 and Harvard University Press published Romanesque Mural Painting of Catalonia in 1930. but I do know a bit about the subject, and find it difficult to believe that anything on it can be important. It is simply a very provincial backwater, like the rest of Catalonian art, with a few, very few really good blossoms among the weeds, and compatriots are running it simply because they’ve got a patent for it (Italian etc having already been taken up by others) and are exploiting it as they might a new breakfast-food. I haven’t read Mousset.Probably Albert Mousset (1883–1975), a French writer and translator who wrote on the politics of the Spanish and the Slavs. Mildred Barnes Bliss may have referred to his periodical Affaires étrangères: Revue mensuelle de documentation international et diplomatique, first published in July 1931 and continued until 1939. BülowPossibly Bernhard Wilhelm Otto Viktor von Bülow (1885–1936), a German diplomat. is worth while, of course, and so is Delaisi.Francis Delaisi (1873–1947), a French writer, journalist, and economist.

I hope that long since you’ve received the second batch of photos of the Show—the first should have reached you long ago.See letter of July 10, 1931. They are very good. And—I’ve doubtless said this several times already in earlier letters—I’m proudest of all, where the Show is concerned, of the way we succeeded in getting everything properly photographed, and the photographs made available to all comers.

It’s the first time this has ever been done in a Show like ours. I’ll admit to you that it involved my being there every morning as early as the sweepers started sweeping, to guide the photographer. I’m enchanted to think that you and Robert are going to give some talks on the subject.See telegram of July 8, 1931.

I will register a cable address—but I may have to move my office, because the demons are building in my court and shutting out my light. May I wait till I’ve decided whether to move or not, and if it is to be a move, till I’ve got a new address?

Hayford and I are working like blacks getting Vol. I ready for the printers.L’art byzantin. The plates are being printed now. Vol. II is mostly writtenHayford Peirce and Royall Tyler, L’art byzantin, vol. 2 (Paris: Librairie de France, 1934).—but there remains a lot of work to be done on it. I’m glad you thought the prospectus inviting. We’ve reluctantly decided to have an English edition—that will be a plague, but I hope Elisina will be able to help, and perhaps even Bill.

One more thing about the Show. As soon as I saw the Vict. and Albert enamel plaquePlaque with a Dancing Girl, Byzantine, mid-eleventh century, gold and cloisonné enamel; acquired in 1921 by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, M.325-1921. See H. P. Mitchell, “A Dancing-Girl in Byzantine Enamel,” The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs 40, no. 227 (February 1922): 64–69. beside the Budapest ones from the Monomachos crown,Crown of Constantine Monomachos, ca. 1042–1050, gold and cloisonné enamel, Magyar Nemzeti Muzeum, Budapest. I noticed certain differences: The gold not the same colour, the London plaque a bit larger than the other, and showing rather thicker cloisons. However, I felt satisfied, on the strength of the quality of the enamel, that the London plaque was all right. Now, at the very end of the Show, BerlinerRudolf Berliner (1886–1967), a German art historian who specialized in Early Christian, Byzantine, Islamic, and early Nordic art and textiles and was a curator at the Bavarian National Museum. button-holed me one morning and, pointing out the above points, proclaimed that the London plaque must be wrong. All the Germans agreed with him, and as so often happens when people are afraid of being dupes, practically everyone else. I stuck to my guns. I really had no doubt as to the authenticity of the enamel.

In my anxiety to find confirmation that would convince others, I remembered having heard that the ultraviolet lamp, the quartz lamp, as it is often called, produced on fake enamels a phosphorescent light, while leaving authentic ones dark. Elisina, Hayford and I then set out (we had little time, as the Show was closing next day) to get such a lamp. Of course the Louvre hasn’t one, and we finally had to buy one, and were able to use it, after the Show had ended, but while all the enamels were still there.

It was worth it. To explain all the points that have to be considered would take reams of paper: suffice it to say that we tried all the enamels in the Show under it, and that the only ones that produced the phosphorescent glow were the 2 Otto Kahns,The subjects of these enamels were not identified in the catalogue. See Exposition internationale d’art byzantin, 28 mai–9 juillet 1931 (Paris: Musée des arts décoratifs, 1931), 76, no. 98 and 149, no. 516. In 1952, the Metropolitan Museum of Art received eleven Mikhail Petrovich Botkin Collection enamels from the estate of Mrs. Otto H. Kahn: Plaques with Christ Flanked by the Virgin and Saint John, Crucifixion, Ascension, Saint Michael, Saints Peter and Paul, Saints James and Andrew, Saint Mark, Saint John the Evangelist, Saint Luke, Saint Simon, and the Virgin and Child, Byzantine style, late nineteenth–early twentieth century, cloisonné enamel on gold, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, acc. nos. 52.54.1–11. the 2 Detroit Museum’sTransfiguration and Baptism of Christ, Detroit Institute of Arts, acc. nos. 28.57 and 39.647. (The Baptism of Christ enamel was on loan to the Detroit Institute of Arts from Robert H. Tannahill until 1939). These and other twelfth-century Byzantine-style cloisonné enamels were forgeries of the late nineteenth–early twentieth century that were formerly part of the Mikhail Petrovich Botkin collection. See A. C. W., “Byzantine Enamels,” Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 9, no. 8 (May 1928): 90–93. and the 2 Silbermanns.The subjects of these enamels were not identified in the catalogue. See Exposition internationale d’art byzantin, 28 mai–9 juillet 1931 (Paris: Musée des arts décoratifs, 1931), 76, no. 98 and 150, no. 517. The dealer E. and A. Silbermann (later Silverman), New York and Vienna, was the source for many of the Botkin enamels sold to collectors. The rest all remained dark—the London plaque behaving just exactly, under the lamp, as the Budapest ones did. One of the Budapest ones, by the way, has a very small restored piece in it, and that showed up livid, phosphorescent white, as also did a small restored bit in Stoclet’s Seated VirginThis enamel has not been identified. (upper L. corner.) All the rest were absolutely pure.

If I already wrote you this from Paris, may I be forgiven—and you’ll note that I’ve been feeling the strain.

The quartz light is valuable. Of course, in order to get full benefit from it, one has to have real and fake specimens of any given kind of object, but then it is marvellous—as it also is on repairs and restorations. The repaired bits show up exactly as the scratch of an old-fashioned phosphorous match does on a board, in the dark. When you come, we’ll have some fun with it. On Tanagras,Mass-produced, mold-cast, and fired terracotta figurines made in the ancient Greek city of Tanagra north of Athens. for instance. We experimented with it in cooperation with Ernest Brummer, who as you know is making a life study of fakes.

As for world affairs, I don’t fear a war, but there are enough other dangers. I wrote you from Paris my views on the causes of the German crisis: wild borrowing, for which Germany can hardly be blamed when money was being thrown at her head, followed by withdrawal of the short-term credits. Now, the great problem is, how to hire back (1) German funds which have fled the country and (2) foreign credits without which Germany’s working capital is insufficient. Mr. Hoover’s one year moratoriumThe Hoover Moratorium was issued by President Herbert Hoover on June 20, 1931, to deal with the banking collapse in Central Europe that was likely to become global. Reparation payments by Germany to France and Allied war debts to the United States were halted for one year. is better than nothing, but it isn’t enough, and its chief utility lies in the same direction. I think the brutal fact is that the whole debt settlement, U.S. debts, interallied debts, reparation debts, is unworkable in conditions as they are now. With a U.S. bursting with new capital seeking employment, and ready to find employment in Germany, Austria, Hungary, the settlement could and did work; but failing that? It simply can’t.

The French are realising now that if the Germans are to go on paying reparations, someone will have to lend them the money to pay. In present circumstances, that someone can only be France, and so one gets a reductio ad absurdum of the whole system. I think we, the U. S., will have to face the facts, content ourselves with what little we’ve received, and call off the interallied debts. We’ve been living in a fool’s paradise, imagining that we could both collect those debts, and at the same time refuse to take from the debtor countries the goods with which the debts would ultimately have been paid. And we’ve set a fashion in protection that the rest of the world has been glad to follow.

Protection is usually accompanied by inflation, in many forms—inflated industries, each country trying to produce for itself articles which formerly one, especially well placed to do so, produced for all, inflated agriculture, inflated credit to finance the new industries and agriculture. Inflation leads to depreciation, lack of confidence. We’ve got to get back to the old principles—producing more than we consume, earning more than we spend, and at the same time agreeing, for the sake of the good of all, to lower the barriers that have been set up in the fancied interest of each one. How it is to be done, I don’t know, but I believe it will be done, and I don’t believe that our civilisation is going to commit suicide by permitting another war just yet.

But what a revolution has taken place in the financial field! Here is Germany, looking for financial salvation to France—and half an hour ago I left this letter to rush to the telephone to be told, from Paris, that the Hungarians had succeeded in placing £5 million Treasury Notes, without which they were bust, the bulk of the amount in Paris, and the balance in Switzerland, Holland and Italy.See “Europe Gives Hungary Loan of $25,000,000; French Bankers Take Largest Share—Short-term Credit Plan Is Agreed on Here,” New York Times, August 14, 1931. Neither London nor N.Y. are able to take any at all! That gives one something to think over, doesn’t it? The French, I think, have some of their troubles coming to them, but they do, as a nation, live within their incomes, and that gives great strength these days.

You must rub your eyes when I say we should produce more than we consume—since over-production is one of our worst troubles. What I mean is that we should produce more real wealth than we consume, and the value of any commodity is of course reduced and ceases to be real the moment it exists in quantities exceeding the demand, a position that is likely to arise when distribution is interfered with and demand fausséd“Distorted.” by protection. But this is getting intolerably long, dearest Mildred. I’m ashamed of myself for not being able to put it all in a nutshell.

Poor Koechlin, I fear, is in a bad way. He was to have been here now, but has written that he can’t dream of coming. He sounds deeply discouraged. He showed signs of over strain all last Spring, but rallied again so fast that I didn’t realise how deep it was. I’m very sad about it, for I’m very fond of him indeed, and he would leave an aching gap.

How I long to see you—

Much love—
R. T.

Love from Elisina, Bill and Hayford.

P.S. Only Metman, Hayford, Mme. Metman, Elisina, Guérin and myself were present at the enamel tests with the quartz lamp, and while we feel at liberty to say that the tests vindicated the London plaque, we can’t, without exposing the Otto Kahn, Detroit and Silbermann [sic] ones, give the most convincing part of the evidence. Please don’t mention the U.S.A. exhibits in this connexion.

Associated Artworks: BZ.1929.1; BZ.1936.20; BZ.1947.24